The Arabs, the Jew and the quiet eco-project

By Robyn Rosen, April 15, 2010

It is the great unreported story of the Middle East: that, despite the conflict in the region, an Israeli, a Palestinian, and a Jordanian have been quietly working together for nearly 20 years to protect their shared environment.

And in London this week, the three co-directors of the Friends of the Earth Middle East (FoEME) spoke about their "shared vision" at a fundraising event held by the New Israel Fund.

Set up in 1994 by Israeli Gidon Bromberg, FoEME has offices in Amman, Bethlehem and Tel Aviv and focuses on sustainable development, improving scarce water resources and renewable energy.

Jordan's Munqueth Mehyar said: "When the peace treaty [between Israel and Jordan] was signed in 1994, we felt that it would bring a lot of business to the region, which had been closed for a long time because of the war. As environmentalists, we were worried about the size and kind of business and that the region would not be able to take this burden.

"We knew the only way to live in this region was to bring people together through the environment, which knows no boundaries."

Palestinian Nader Al-Khateeb said that the conflict has never affected their relationship "personally". During the Israeli incursion into Bethlehem in 2003, he was under curfew for 40 days and the roof was blown off his house.

"Underneath, I was communicating with Gidon, talking about raising funds to repair water tanks," he said.

Mr Bromberg said: "We share a vision of a two-state solution, with Jerusalem as a shared capital. The beauty is we can bring people on board who don't share that vision, but understand that we must help the environment."

Last updated: 4:30pm, April 15 2010